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The Fear, Shame, and Silence of Sex abuse in school

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The Fear, Shame, and Silence of Sex abuse in school

Suffering in silence is a common theme among victims of childhood sexual violence, as highlighted by the latest government survey on violence against children. Of the 15.6% of females who experienced such violence, 62.6% faced multiple incidents before turning 18. Shockingly, only 40% of victims confided in someone, leaving the majority suffering in silence.

Sexual harassment, as defined by the Ministry of Education, encompasses unwelcome and repeated sexual advances, unsolicited attention, demands for sexual favors, innuendos, or other inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature.

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Victims of childhood sexual violence frequently grapple with a paralyzing fear that hinders them from speaking out. Fear of potential retaliation or harm arises if they disclose their experiences. Victims may fear not being believed or, worse, facing blame for the abuse they endured. The psychological and emotional consequences of sharing such experiences also contribute to the pervasive fear that keeps victims silent.

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A profound sense of shame often immobilizes victims, preventing them from breaking their silence. Victims internalize feelings of guilt, creating a barrier to sharing their experiences openly. Societal stigma surrounding sexual violence compounds this shame, further discouraging victims from speaking out. The oppressive weight of shame can act as a formidable obstacle, deterring victims from seeking the help and support they desperately need.

Lack of Support:

Many victims find themselves in a disheartening position of lacking a support system to turn to when confronting childhood sexual violence. The absence of awareness and understanding about the intricacies of sexual violence may further isolate victims. Cultural and societal norms, at times, work against victims, dissuading them from speaking out about their experiences. This lack of support exacerbates the silence, perpetuating a cycle of suffering that remains unaddressed.

TSC Measures

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) takes strict measures against teachers involved in sexual offenses with learners, including dismissal and de-registration. TSC Director Cavin Anyuor emphasized a low threshold of proof for such cases, with the commission periodically publishing lists of de-registered teachers.

Mr. Johnson Nzioka, the chair of the Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association, acknowledged the prevalence of sexual abuse among teachers. In the last list of de-registered teachers in August 2023, all 73 individuals were male, primarily accused of ‘carnal knowledge’ (CK).

In 2020, the Court of Appeal affirmed that the TSC is responsible for teachers who sexually abuse students while under its employ, ordering the commission to pay Sh5 million in damages to two victims.

The Fear, Shame, and Silence of Sex abuse in school
The Fear, Shame, and Silence of Sex abuse in school

Sexual violence and harassment continue to permeate all sectors of society worldwide, with physical violence, uninvited contact, defilement, and rape being the main forms.

In Kenya, at least 60% of sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by trusted individuals, such as parents, teachers, peers, church leaders, community bright spots, and caregivers. Women and girls continue to be the biggest casualties of reported sexual harassment globally, with one in every seven women in Nairobi experiencing sexual abuse.

Sexual Abuse of Boys

However, many males experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, facing additional challenges due to social attitudes, stigma, and stereotypes about men and masculinity. Research has found that at least 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse or assault, whether in childhood or as adults.

This is likely a modest estimate, as most crimes go unreported by survivors. The patriarchal nature of most societies promotes masculinity above vulnerability, leading to the iceberg phenomenon of male sexual abuse.

Recent coverage and amplification of sexual violence cases against boys through mainstream and social media has somewhat increased advocacy and awareness about males being at risk of sexual violence and harassment.

However, there is strong evidence that male children are even more likely to be sexually abused or assaulted by other children. A study by WHO found that three-quarters of the boys who reported being sexually victimized said the person who violated them was another child.

The abuse of boys in Kenya can be easily classified as a silent epidemic, but the patriarchal culture contributes greatly to the continued silence around this serious crime. Male survivors hardly speak out for fear of stigma and labeling associated with sexual abuse of males. Deliberate resource mobilization for this specific cause is overdue.

The Fear, Shame, and Silence of Sex abuse in school

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